Dairy Industry: different things are needed in different times - by Olli Tossavainen
Product development in a dairy company aims to meet the consumer’s needs by producing delicious products efficiently. In practice this means that the future needs shall be foreseen by utilizing e.g. development of technology so that the consumer is offered such products, which he or she has not even wished. Reason for this is that the consumer can’t know what the development of technology can enable. This is important to a consumer product company like Valio, which is the largest of its kind in Finland. In European level Valio is far from the largest dairy companies active in North Europe.
Valio’s basic task is also to secure the living of its owners i.e. milk producers by processing the raw material they delivered to well-selling and good priced products. This means foreseeing the future trends. Economical basic products are produced when the economic season is poor and different added valued products when consumers have more cash in use.
Developing products so that they are competitive and that milk producer gets the best price for the raw milk demands sensitive listening from the product development and marketing and fast application of the new technologies. Valio has followed this principle for a long time and it has enabled to stay at the front line of the development. Nowadays, during the embargo of EU countries to import products to Russia has led to a hard competition in the milk markets. In all EU countries there is lots of milk available, buying power of the consumers is low due to the economic situation and additionally the country quotas were removed in spring 2015. Due to these reasons the prices of the basic products are unparalleled low at the moment.
Milk processing is largely regarded as traditional biotechnology, for example about 60 % of Valio’s products are manufactured using lactic acid bacteria. Use of starter bacteria is generally regarded as safe and health promoting. Milk can also be divided into its components by separation technologies and from these can be combined new kind of compositions, such as protein rich products. Starters together with different compositions, enzymes and process technologies make possible to manufacture different kind of delicious products to consumers.
Modern biotechnology has brought several new raw materials such as enzymes, structure builders, sweetening agents, aromas etc., which all have made possible to produce high quality products even more economically than before. As well different ingredients are used to affect storability, texture, emulsifying properties, colour or improve nutritional composition or processing properties.
Ensuring the safety of new ingredients is of utmost importance. When safety has been ensured reception of new ingredients in food industry is often excited. At the same time processing of the new products gets easily more complicated than before. Additionally new ingredients are easily regarded as unnatural in consumers’ minds. Therefore natural ingredients are needed, which function efficiently but are not regarded as additives.
Biotechnology is also much else than production of food. Development in the area continuously makes new things possible - such as production of ingredients more efficiently and environmentally friendly. Applying biotechnology in the production of present and new components is a central part of the new bioeconomy and it fulfills the requirements for the future production. However, new ingredients must give the dairy company a new competitive edge and benefits must be clearly measurable!
What new possibilities can modern biotechnology offer to traditional biotechnology, production of dairy products? And how do the consumers react to these new possibilities?